comScore Let's Cool It With The Winter Soldier Codename Change Speculation | The Mary Sue

Let’s Cool It With the Winter Soldier Codename Change Speculation for Now

sebastian stan as bucky barnes

Last week, an Entertainment Weekly caption triggered a ton of outlets to run stories declaring that Bucky Barnes, the assassin previously known as The Winter Soldier, would now officially be going by White Wolf. Not as sure was actor Sebastian Stan.

It was the caption that launched dozens of articles, demonstrating how desperate those of us who cover Infinity War are for any solid plot hints about the still uber-mysterious movie.

As part of EW’s 15-cover spread featuring various singular or seemingly randomly paired characters, Sebastian Stan (Bucky) and Pom Klementieff (Mantis) share a cover, and this is their caption:

Sebastian Stan’s rehabilitated assassin now goes by White Wolf. It’s intriguing to see a man whose memories were scrambled, wiped, and rebuilt paired with Pom Klementieff’s alien mind-reader.

The only problem with taking the caption’s word as gospel? None of the other 14 captions provide anything new by way of plot, and most are just generic descriptions of the characters. The captions primarily come across as their writer stating a known attribute and then trying to find something to say from there, especially about the random pairs.

Tom Holland sports the golden Iron Spider armor offered to him by Tony Stark at the end of Homecoming. He’s going to bring it back with some damage.

Yet that “now goes by White Wolf” generated a lot of coverage with a lot of yelling headlines that this was now “confirmed” as Bucky’s new code name, which had extra significance in indicating that he would not be picking up the “Captain America” mantle. The news even trended on Facebook.

I didn’t write about it because I’d spent a long time looking for meaning in those captions and didn’t find much—so I figured that Bucky/White Wolf was a simple extrapolation from Bucky being called that name by the Wakandan children at the end of Black Panther.

After publication, these “codename change confirmed” articles had one pretty big detractor: Sebastian Stan.

Stan commented on two separate Instagram posts after being tagged in them by fans, seeming to refute the White Wolf news.

“Nah. Always winter baby,” Stan wrote. “Never jump to conclusions too quick.”

“No,” Stan wrote flatly of another article. “Bucky Barnes doesn’t throw off any shackles until he actually does. Love the enthusiasm though.”

Of course, it’s possible that there is some kind of big switch of Bucky officially going by White Wolf in Infinity War, and Stan is trying to deflect. But he seems pretty adamant, and if Marvel wanted that news to be confirmed by EW to the world the actor likely wouldn’t have said anything.

What I think is probably White Wolf-wise is that Bucky may, in the future, end up assuming some of the original White Wolf comics character’s attributes in maintaining a close relationship and allegiance to Wakanda. As for being called White Wolf by anyone, it seems like that’s still a nickname for him from Wakandan pals, not an official code name.

From the more in-depth Entertainment Weekly article, describing a scene the reporter witnessed on-set:

For instance, on the other side of the river, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, the former Winter Soldier now known to his Wakandan friends as “White Wolf,” is laying waste to Outriders while Rocket — in the form of Sean Gunn, wielding a puppet stand-in — distracts him with some offers he can easily refuse.

It seems to me the caption-writer read this article, wrote that Bucky “now goes by White Wolf” on that Bucky/Mantis cover, and reporters and fans ran with it all the way to the news trending on Facebook. It’s not that I think this is such an earth-shattering event that anyone needs to be taken to task. I speculate wildly about Infinity War every day. But there’s a difference in declaring something official and confirmed on such scant evidence. That this spread so far should give us pause.

I think this is a good example of how the echo chamber of pop culture news can create a seeming “confirmation” of something that is absolutely not confirmed, and it’s a reminder to read deeper. Just because something is widely covered doesn’t mean it’s true.

(images: Marvel)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.